17 – Instructions

Writing Style

Suzan Last and David McMurrey

Placing the key user steps in bold can be a very helpful way to signal clearly what the reader needs to do. Often the command verb is bolded; sometimes bold font highlights the key component being discussed.

Use of the in instructions can be problematic. Occasionally, instructions may sound like this: “The Pause button should be depressed in order to stop the display temporarily.” It would be more helpful to indicate when the reader must “press the Pause button.”

Using the third person can also lead to awkwardness: “The user should then press the Pause button.” Instructions should typically be written using command verb forms and using the second-person “you” to make it clear what the reader should do.

This text was derived from

Last, Suzan, with contributors Candice Neveu and Monika Smith. Technical Writing Essentials: Introduction to Professional Communications in Technical Fields. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 2019. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/technicalwriting/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

McMurrey, David. Online Technical Writing. n.d. https://www.prismnet.com/~hcexres/textbook/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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